Over the decades, muscles cars, and what they stand for, have become perverted. No, not like that one uncle that no one talks about, who ended up on The Bad List, but rather perverted in the sense of straying from the original design ethos. Whereas Europe had the sports car, perfectly suited to the small, twisty roads, America needed its own car for the wide open, straight roads commonplace throughout America. Think old Route 66, and you will understand why an MG Midget might not be the ideal vehicle. America needed a fast, good looking, comfortable and practical car, suited for long open straights. The solution was simple: take the largest engine, put it in a small-to-medium sedan body, and style it up while lopping the rear doors off. Just like that, the muscle car was born.
At the birth of the muscle car, the only relationship between them and sports cars from Europe were the number of doors. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has even classified muscle cars as ‘American Sedans’ since their inception. This is where the muscle cars of today have strayed from the original idea; they have become less an American sedan-derived rocket, and more of a sports car, through-and-through. The Camaro and the Mustang are perfect examples, shrinking their dimensions, losing their sedan-siblings, and gaining less-than-traditional technology such as losing the solid-rear axle. Luckily, one company has held true to the core concept of what a muscle car should be: Dodge.
While they have also left behind such things as solid rear axles, the core concept of making a sedan-based car as fast as possible stands strong and true at Dodge. Both the Challenger and Charger are sedan-based (or actual sedans like the Charger), and the boys at SRT take care of putting the biggest engine they can in them, birthing the most ‘retro’ modern day muscle cars. The 2007 Dodge SRT8 Charger reviewed here today is no exception, featuring an engine and dimensions worthy of a muscle car of yore—and sadly a few things that should have stayed back with the muscle cars of yore.
|Model: 2007 Dodge Charger
Price when new: Base-$37,010 (adjusted for inflation $43,147.99)
Engine: 6.1 L V8
Horsepower: 425 hp
Torque: 420 lb-ft
MPG: 14 city / 20 highway
Curb weight: 4,160 lbs
Dimensions: 200″ L x 75″ W x 58″ H
The highlight of the car, and a very welcome ‘heritage’ addition, is the HEMI engine developed by the SRT skunkworks. The engine displaces 6.1 liters, or 370 cubic inches for those people who never left the 60’s behind. While many high-performance modern engines resort to turbos or other ‘trickery’ to get more power, the 370 Hemi relies on good ol’ fashion hot rodding. Bored out, stronger pistons and rods, a ‘hot’ cam, headers and intake, and the list goes on and on; these modifications make the engine not only more powerful than it’s 5.7L stable mate, but also more reliable than a system which relies on new technologies or forced induction.
The result is a healthy 425bhp and 420lb-ft of torque. While in the genesis of the muscle car such numbers were achievable, the resulting engine would have been lumpy, rough, less-than-reliable, and smelly. Modern technologies such as fuel injection, better ignition systems, and oil squirters, make the modern 370 Hemi a jewel compared to the past, with a quiet idol and smooth drive, if the throttle is not abused.
SRT did not make all of those improvements so their new Charger could be gently driven, however. The motor rewards abuse, featuring a not very V8-like hearty tall-end. The low-end of the rev-range is kept purposefully tame, so as to not snap about passengers. This engine is mated to a 5-speed automatic, which is regrettably a hold-over from a bygone era that could have been left behind. Chrysler needed a platform to build the Charger/Challenger/300 on, and as such, purchased the tooling for the ’96 E-class from Mercedes. While the resulting chassis is a welcome addition to the Chrysler parts-bin, and has aged appreciably, the 5-speed automatic that came with it is not of such quality. While allowing smooth cruising, effortless shifts, and nice cruising RPM levels, the transmission from 96 makes those effortless shifts with what feels like glacial deliberation.
Having an old transmission connected to such a motor is a real shame, and sadly, Dodge continues the trend elsewhere. The engine/transmission combo sends power to a pitiful rear-end. Featuring an open differential—one-wheel wonder anyone?—and a 3.06 final drive, smoky burnouts are not an option. This is another effort to create a dual personality automobile; having both a wild side and a mild side. The result is a V8 car which has a very un-V8 gutless low-end. For those lusting after the ‘good ol’ days’, this slow start is a betrayal of all that is good and holy. Once the car ‘comes on cam’ so to speak however, any frowns will be replaced with smiles, as the Charger roars its way to 170mph+.
To handle this power, the body work was also not left untouched by SRT. The two most noticeable enhancements to the exterior (besides the SRT badges), are the 5-spoke SRT wheels and the fully-functional vented hood. The wheels are 20”x8.5” and are rather handsome units. Shielded within them are the pre-requisite Brembo brakes, which do an admirable job hauling the 2+ tone car down from speed. To aid these brakes the front bumper also features strategic vents next to the fog lights, increasing brake cooling. Also added along the front fascia is a lower vent to accompany the hood vent in aiding cooling. All of these enhancements, combined with the R/T spec spoiler, create a bruiser-like appearance.
The interior is mostly standard Dodge Charger fare from the era, featuring leather seating surfaces, large seats, and plastic. Lots of plastic. While the leather is certainly hardy, it is not the softest of materials, although the black and grey color scheme is sufficiently under-stated. The plastics are like-wise hard, and signify the quality of materials throughout. The front leather thrones are easily the centerpiece of the SRT difference. Not only are they extremely bolstered, allowing for sufficiently spirited driving—and counteracting the body roll—they are also comfortable enough for states to pass under the car, without even a second thought to comfort.
The driver accesses vehicle information through beautiful white-faced gauges, backlit at night by a green glow which continues to the HVAC controls in the center. Dual zone, automatic, climate control is standard and further increases comfort.
One item which will be sorely missed, be it on a short jaunt or long journey, is anyway whatsoever to connect a digital media player to the cars stereo. Bluetooth for phone controls is available, however the system is not connected to the stereo. An auxiliary port is standard on every lower trim level, however the SRT is unexplainably denied one. The hole for said aux-port is present below the stereo and above the HVAC controls, however does not serve any purpose besides taunting the driver. SRT did, however, provide a single SRT badge on the passenger side, as a quasi-consolation prize.
The 2007 Dodge SRT8 Charger is a real muscle car. Big V8, lots of space, and comfortable, it is a nice cruiser, also being able to blast its way out of an situation with its 370 HEMI. Like a muscle car of the ‘good ol’ days’ however; it also features bad interior materials, not-amazing cornering (not a sports car!), and bad mileage. If you can live with that, then the SRT8 Charger is a practical, fun modern iteration of a classic muscle car.
I agreed with that logic enough to actually purchase a 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8, pictured below. To further exemplify the muscle car-ethos of the Charger, the addition of a Shaker Hood (before Dodge did it themselves), and a front lip, as well as the removal of the front bar grille, butch the car up further. The car has run mechanically strong for over 3 years, and has performed in snow, sun, and rain. As a semi-long term test, the Charger SRT8 has passed with flying colors.
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.